Reuben Robertson, Jr. and Miami University President John Millett knew each other during WWII!

Hi. I don’t have a lot of time to write this, so I really need to hurry. This is going to be a mini post that’s light on words and heavy on links and jpegs.

But first, I’d like to wish our veterans a happy Veteran’s Day, and to thank you for your service to our country. I’d also like to take this opportunity to discuss my favorite wartime movie. Actually, it’s not just my favorite war movie, it’s the only war movie I ever watch. And that movie is:

The Best Years of Our Lives.

It’s so good, it’s on Steven Spielberg’s top five list. If you’ve never seen it before, TCM is airing it on Saturday at 5 p.m. Eastern Time. If you’re busy, DVR it. Then you can watch it whenever you want, and trust me, you’ll want to watch it more than once. I watch it at least once a year. If you’ve seen it before, be sure to mention your favorite parts in the comments. (Mine is when they go out clubbing the night they return home. I mean, does Boone City have an amazing night life, or what??)

OK, back to the real reason I’m writing this mini post—I’d like to focus on two veterans from WWII: Reuben B. Robertson, Jr., and John D. Millett. As you may recall, Reuben Robertson, Jr. was the much-loved, heavily dimpled president of Champion Paper and Fibre, in Hamilton, Ohio, from 1950 to 1960. In 1955, Reuben temporarily stepped down from that post to serve as deputy secretary of defense under Secretary Charles Wilson. In 1957, he went back to being president at Champion but, tragically, three years later, he was assisting a driver whose car was stopped in the middle of a highway and was killed by a drunk driver. 

John D. Millett was Miami University’s 16th president. He’d been elected president in March 1953 after a committee that Reuben Jr. was a member of selected him as their preferred nominee. As far as Miami’s presidents go, I’d guess that Millett is considered one of their best. Steven Spielberg puts him in the top five. (Just kidding.) Millett didn’t officially start his duties at Miami until the fall of 1953, but, as president-elect, this was going to be a huge jump for him in his career. Before he came to Miami, he was a full professor at Columbia University. He’d done some impressive things, but from what I can tell, he didn’t have any administrative experience at a university. He likely wanted to hit the ground running. He attended the June meeting of the Board of Trustees. I’m sure he was doing other things to prepare as well.

As my most dedicated readers know, a woman named Dorothy Craig, whom I’ve narrowed down to being one of Reuben Jr.’s employees, wrote a check to Ronald Tammen shortly before he disappeared. Oddly enough, Dorothy Craig’s name was never, ever mentioned in any newspaper articles, even though Carl Knox had written it down in his notes. How did they manage to keep her name out of the papers? I think it may have to do with a friendship that goes back to WWII.

That’s right, just as the headline says, Reuben Robertson, Jr. and John Millett knew each other during the war. How do I know that they knew each other? Because I now have it on excellent authority that both men were working in the same extremely small branch of the same division of the Army Service Forces at the exact same time.

So let’s cut to the chase:

Both Reuben Robertson, Jr. and John D. Millett worked for the Control Division of the Army Service Forces.

The Army Service Forces was the part of the U.S. Army that was responsible for making sure that Army personnel had the necessary supplies and services to do their jobs. The Control Division was the part of the Army Service Forces that focused on improving efficiency. Control Division officers would travel to Army bases and monitor how things were being done. They helped reduce paperwork and whatnot. I’m sure they did more, but I have guests coming at 2 p.m. and I haven’t even started cleaning the downstairs yet.

OK, so where were we? Both men worked in the Control Division. But that’s not all.

Both men were officers in the same branch of the Control Division.

Which branch?

The Administrative Management Branch.

How small of a branch was it? 

Really small. We’ll get to that in a minute.

OK, so this is the part where I stop writing words and start showing you pictures.

Here’s the preface to a book titled Organization of the Army Service Forces, a 700-plus page tome written by John D. Millett. In the preface, he describes his role in the Administrative Management Branch of the Control Division.

Here’s a document from Reuben Robertson Jr.’s separation papers that describes his time with the Army. In the first paragraph of the summary section, it describes his time in the Administrative Management Branch of the Control Division, a position he held for 18 months, beginning in March 1943. Although he did go to Georgia later, he was in Washington, D.C., for a portion of that time.

And lastly, here’s a citation from a book on the history of operations research in the Army that tells us how many people worked in the Control Division’s Administrative Management Branch.

We’re talking 28 officers and 3 civilians, all housed in Washington, D.C., in the fall of 1943. Reuben Robertson, Jr. and John D. Millett were two of those officers.

Reuben Jr. was such an extrovert, he could get to know 30 other people really well by lunchtime. John Millett strikes me as a major people person too. You guys, they knew each other.

For this reason, I think Reuben Robertson Jr. probably encouraged John Millett to apply for the presidency at Miami when Reuben was asked to sit on the selection committee. John had Reuben to thank for that very large boost to his career, from professor to president. It would only make sense that Reuben would have John’s ear if he ever needed to keep a bothersome detail out of the paper. 

Mind you, this is just a hypothesis.

Your thoughts?

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Suzie Thomas
Suzie Thomas
21 days ago

Best Years of Our Lives favorite scene: when Homer, a double amputee, demonstrates to his girlfriend how to remove his prosthetics before bed. Such a genuine, tender moment of showing her what a lifetime of caring for him would be like if they were to marry. Second favorite scene: their wedding. 😭😭😭 Oh and ANY scene with Myrna Loy in it!!! ❤️❤️❤️

21 days ago

In 9th grade English we read a book, I think it was “Bless the Beasts and Children,” most of which I don’t remember, except it was about a group of boys stuck at some juvenile delinquent rehabilitation summer camp type thing. The one line that I do remember is a character who’d been sent there previously (the narrator?) commenting about another character that there’s always at least that one kid from Ohio in any given group. And it feels like that’s true for a large amount of national committees, boards, corporations, nonprofits, etc. Travel to a non-Ohio location, and you’re practically guaranteed to meet someone else from Ohio, though maybe because Ohioans are always telling people we’re from Ohio. Kind of like the Texas of the North.

After reading this post (I’m sorry, but “…I have had the active aid of General Sommerville…”?!?!) Ohio history is far, far more interesting than anyone gives it credit for. I’d venture that those who claim Ohio is the most boring state are also the ones who think it’s as flat as Kansas. The really fascinating thing is that, because Ohio history is seems to have an inordinate amount of mobsters, gangsters, bootleggers, conmen, politicians, and apparently spies/intelligence officers, probably the most interesting stuff are things that people took to the grave.

21 days ago
Reply to  jwenger

We just buried them in ways no one could find them. Like under the Cincinnati Opera House, although I hear they’ve been digging up quite a few in their renovations – I think they have a forensic anthropologist on standby every time they do construction there.

21 days ago
Reply to  jwenger

Oh gosh, yeah, it starts as a wild story – I guess in the 1830s or 40s, there was a steamboat captain who decided he needed to race another steamboat when he pulled out onto the river that was already going at full speed and ordered the furnaces stoked too high, so it exploded. They weren’t able to piece most of the passengers and crew together, at least what remains they could find, so they had to bury them in a mass grave. Then during the civil war and a few decades after, the area became a paupers’ grave…might have been a veterans’/poor man’s hospital in the area, can’t remember. And in the 1880s or so, gentrification happened, and the people moving in were pretty NIMBY about the whole thing, so they built a German beer garden/concert area over it, which eventually morphed into the opera house.